Magazine article Anglican Journal

The Complex Journey of Mayann Francis

Magazine article Anglican Journal

The Complex Journey of Mayann Francis

Article excerpt

Her Honour Dr. Mayann Elizabeth Francis has always gone wherever she felt God was calling her to go. That has made for an exceptionally varied journey that includes sociology, X-ray technology, law, public administration, theology and human rights. "I always say, 'Go where God leads you. Be prepared to seize opportunities as they present themselves,' " says the 67-year-old Nova Scotian, who was the 31st lieutenant governor of her province--and the second black person in Canada and the first black person in Nova Scotia to hold the vice-regal office.

For the pioneering native of Sydney's multi-ethnic working-class Whitney Pier neighbourhood, each career change led her closer to the lieutenant governorship. "When I look back, I see everything was building on the other," says the devout Anglican and eucharistic minister at All Saints' Cathedral in Halifax.

Francis was actually born into the African Orthodox Church, a protest offshoot of the U.S. Episcopal Church founded by West Indian immigrants. Her father, George, became African Orthodox archpriest at St. Phillip's in Sydney. "But when I'm in the cathedral, I feel right at home. If I close my eyes, it's very similar--the creeds, the communion, the prayers," she says.

Church has always been and remains a focal point for Francis, who as a child attended morning service, Sunday school and vespers each Sunday with her six siblings. Her parents, both born in the Caribbean, relocated to Sydney in the early 1940s from New York City.

Francis herself headed to New York City after earning a sociology degree at St. Mary's University and then a diploma in X-ray technology. "Dealing with people in the hospital who were sick gave me compassion and insight into human beings," says Francis. Later, income from X-ray technology would finance her studies for a paralegal certificate and then a master's degree in public administration at New York University.

Different insights came from five years on Wall Street, where she worked on million-dollar deals as a paralegal for major law firms specializing in real estate and banking. "That was really something for a Nova Scotia girl from Whitney Pier," she says.

Returning to Canada after 16 years in the U.S., Francis held several senior public service positions, including director and chief executive officer of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and provincial ombudsman. …

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